I can’t believe we haven’t posted this recipe before. Beer can chicken is one of the most quintessential grilling recipes! I’m not sure whether it’s how funny the chicken looks sitting upright on the grill or the fact that it really is a great way to grill a whole chicken, but it’s certainly a popular grill recipe. The concept behind this recipe is that while the chicken slowly cooks on the outside over indirect heat, the steam from the beer helps cook the chicken from the inside to keep it juicy. I’ll be honest, I’m not sure the beer actually does anything but serve as a pedestal for the bird. The beer left in the can hardly ever simmers when I am grilling a beer can chicken. This is due to the fact that the heat is not directly under the can, so it never really seems to get quite hot enough to simmer and steam. Nonetheless, it sure makes a great stool for the chicken and it looks pretty darn funny while it is grilling!
I prefer to rub the chicken first, but a rub is completely optional in this recipe. If you don’t have the rub ingredients laying around, some Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper will do the trick. If you do happen to follow the directions for the rub, be warned that it may char in places on the chicken, depending on how far away you can get the chicken from the heat sources. The charring is due to the sugar in the rub, but it’s really not a big deal as it will only char the skin and will peel right off of the meat (besides, it actually tastes pretty good!). The smoke pouch in this recipe is also optional, but in my opinion you should really use one when cooking something for a longer period of time, especially on a gas grill. Ok, let’s get started:
The Rub – Optional
As I mentioned, this part is optional. Some Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper is fine. There’s really no magic to creating a rub though. The first two ingredients are pretty much a staple in any rub that we use. After that, it basically comes down to whatever is in the pantry. Brown sugar and paprika combine to make a great sweet and smokey base. Choose ingredients to created other tastes on top of that base. In this case, I wanted to add a little more smokiness and some heat, so I chose the Chipotle Powder.
2 tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Paprika
1/4 teaspoon Chipolte Powder
1/4 teaspoon Mustard Powder
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
Wash and pat dry the chicken, make sure you get it as dry as possible on the outside. Please user paper towels to dry the chicken, the thought of raw chicken juice hanging around on a dish towel creeps me out! Combine all of the rub ingredients thoroughly and then rub all over the outside of the chicken. If you have some left over, add it to the 1/2 beer we are going to discuss in a second. Let the chicken rest with it’s rub for about 20 minutes before grilling (on a counter in an air conditioned room!).
Standing and Grilling a Beer Can Chicken
- If you skipped the rub section, go ahead and rinse and pat dry the chicken with some paper towels.
- Rub the outside of the chicken with some salt and black pepper (if you haven’t already rubbed it down with the optional run).
- Allow the chicken to rest at room temperature for about 20 minutes while you prepare the grill and smoke pouch.
- Light the grill and set it up for indirect cooking. This means that you are going to light only a portion of the burners. For a 3 burner set up, light the outside 2 burners on high and leave the middle burner off. For a 4 burner set up, light the outside 2…you get the point.
- While the grill is heating up, create a smoke pouch according to these directions.
- Place the smoke pouch over on of the burners on high. Close the lid to the grill and allow the smoke pouch to heat up and start smoldering.
- While you are waiting for the grill to heat up, open a can of your favorite beer and drink HALF. For heaven’s sake, don’t pour it out and waste it. If you don’t like beer, have someone else drink it!
- Now that we have our grill set up, a chicken that has warmed for 20 minutes on the counter and a smoldering smoke pouch, it’s time to stand that chicken up on the grill! I like to turn off the burners on the grill while I get the chicken situated. This is optional, but will probably make for a more comfortable experience.
- Using a pair of good tongs, grasp the chicken firmly. You can also stick your fingers in the neck portion of the chicken to get a good grip. Regardless of how you grab the chicken, make sure you can control it so we don’t drop it during the standing process. Now hold the chicken upright with the drumsticks facing down.
- Here’s where this recipe gets it’s other name, beer butt chicken, slide your half of a beer up the chicken’s, um, bottom cavity.
- While holding the chicken and the beer can, slide the chicken onto the grill and position the drumsticks out in front of the now standing chicken. The drumsticks and beer can should act as a tripod for your beer can chicken.
- With your beer can chicken standing at attention, close the lid and you are done for at least an hour. We want to cook the chicken at around 300 degrees, so I suggest placing an oven thermometer right next to the chicken (making sure it isn’t over the lit side of the grill) to monitor the temperature. Tweak the two lit burners to maintain the proper temperature. Remember not to leave the lid open too long while checking the temperature. Each time you open the grill’s lid, you are letting out heat. Even better than opening the lid, place the thermometer so you can see it though one of the holes and then you don’t even need to disturb the lid.
- After about an hour or an hour and 15 minutes, use a meat thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken. Once the breast meat reaches around 165 degrees, the chicken is done.
- Carefully remove the chicken using a pair of tongs. Use caution when tipping the chicken over onto a platter because the can may have some more beer left.
- Remove the beer can and let your chicken rest for around 10 minutes so that the juices can redistribute and then carve to serve!
So yes, beer can chicken is a funny looking way to cook a whole chicken. Does the beer actually make the chicken more juicy than other grilled chicken recipes? I’m not sure. Perhaps we will do a blind taste test one of these days with 2 chickens, one with and one without beer in the can. In the end though, who cares? It’s a great way to cook a chicken and it looks hilarious!